Reflecting & Persevering

Sarandeep Huja
February 16, 2022
Dean Sarandeep Huja and his family

As we reflect on the year 2021, I remain humbled and proud of the accomplishments made within the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine. We were able to host the graduation for the Class of 2021, present white coats to our well-deserved students and expand our footprint by partnering with the Ryan White Clinic, all while continuing advancement in the field of dentistry by our devoted faculty, staff and students.

Members of our college and community rose to the challenge through the pandemic, and I know we will be able to surpass other challenges and embrace them as opportunities. I have so much faith and confidence in our faculty, staff and students as we move forward that I know anything that may occur in the new year, we will be able to adapt and overcome due to the resiliency shown over the last two years.

One event that I am thoroughly looking forward to this year would be our Dental Homecoming. As of right now, we are still looking forward to holding this as an in-person event on Feb. 26 and 27. On Saturday morning, I will be delighted to provide a college update. The remainder of the weekend is filled with class reunion celebrations, a continuing-education (CE) opportunity, our Lowcountry Shuck and Shuffle, topped off with an optional golf tournament! If you have not done so already, please be sure to register.

This past December, I spoke at the SCDA House of Delegates, where I was asked specifically about MUSC tuition. I am acutely sensitive to this crisis across higher education, but especially in dental education. Since my arrival at MUSC, we have been deliberate and strategic with tuition management, which has led to no increases in tuition or fees for the D.M.D. program for five consecutive years. Soon after my arrival in 2017, with the goal of improving financial stewardship without jeopardizing our excellence in dental education, we decided not to increase tuition for that fiscal year.

Our leadership and supporters understand how difficult it is to freeze tuition because of its impact on day-to-day operations. We don’t know how long we will be able to sustain this freeze. As of right now, I am unaware of other dental schools in the country that took such stringent measures to curb tuition and student debt. This is exactly what CDM did, and I am especially and eternally grateful to my faculty, staff and university leadership for the support. Please review my letter which will appear in the February issue of the SCDA Bulletin.

We have a number of new, outstanding and energetic faculty joining JBE CDM and we look forward to welcoming them and connecting them with you. They also bring the opportunity for CE in the areas of oral pathology, radiology and digital dentistry. The pandemic has led to staff transitions, not unlike what you are experiencing in your offices. Financially, we remain very sound, as we continue to hire and most importantly, we did not furlough any employees during the pandemic. Our employees have worked very hard, in spite of numerous challenges. I am grateful to their resilience and tenacity in the time of extended uncertainty.

Importantly, we look forward to our Honors Convocation/Hooding Ceremony for DMD 2022 on May 20 and White Coat Ceremony for DMD 2024 on June 10. Despite the challenges, our students, with the help of our faculty and staff, have continued to gain clinical experiences and prepare them for practice. Our students have begun rotations in the Roper Ryan White Clinic in West Ashley and our four-chair dental clinic in the old Citadel Mall, now being referred to as the West Ashley Medical Pavilion, which opens in late summer 2022. Our students will gain additional experiences at these sites.

Every morning, I walk with a spring in my step from the garage to MUSC’s Urban Garden, with the view of our clinical building ahead of me. I peer through the bricks and mortar with deep gratitude to all the faculty and staff who serve our patients and educate our students. I have a goal of making 2022 the best year that it possibly can. The JBE College of Dental Medicine is going to expand its footprint across the Charleston community to increase student experiences, prevent increases to the financial burden of dental education on our students, and research/develop alternative ways to promote oral health, leading to better overall systemic health. Let’s join forces to ensure that happens.

Finally, one of the hardships of the pandemic that has impacted me the most is the inability to reach out to our alumni and friends in person. I miss that. I hope that will change soon and until then, I remain grateful through it all in spite of the challenges.

Sincerely,

Sarandeep Huja, Dean